The aircraft conversion rallye is gaining additional momentum. The latest interested party standing in line to get slots for transforming passenger aircraft into freighters is Lithuanian
carrier, SmartLynx Airlines. This involves four A321, which were acquired by Lynx’s business partner, APOC, from Finnair.
The entire project is scheduled to be accomplished by mid-2023. The P2F conversions will then join the SmartLynx freighter fleet.
Jasper van den Boogaard, VP Airframe Acquisition & Trading at APOC, is very tight-lipped. The manager did not want to say exactly what role his company is playing in the Finnair deal. Nor did
he reveal which precise part APOC and SmartLynx play in this context or what the financial commitments of both partners are. “We don’t disclose the financial structure,” is all he said.
However, he confirmed that APOC bought the aircraft from Finnair and Lynx is responsible for arranging their conversions in close coordination with APOC. In turn, this indicates that Lynx is the
one paying for the P2F work package. As data from other modifications show, it costs a single-digit million amount to convert an A321. But this depends on which modification package a customer
wants and whether the order consists of just one aircraft or several. APOC manager van den Boogaard, for example, has said his company will contribute the landing gear and other components. But
this requires close coordination with the retrofitter.
EFW or Precision – who’ll get the job?
Currently, the 4 aircraft are parked in Cyprus, awaiting the green light for their conversions. “We and partner Smart Lynx are in close negotiations with technical providers, but haven’t signed a contract yet,” Jasper described the status. Whereby experience shows that only two suppliers are suitable for the job: Elbe Flugzeugwerke (EFW) in Dresden, Germany, and Precision Conversions of Beaverton, Oregon in the U.S. Who will be awarded the contract is completely open. In February, SmartLynx ordered six A321 passenger-to-freighter conversions from specialist EFW. However, one strong argument for Precision is that the U.S. technician converted an A321 on behalf of Lynx, which was delivered to SmartLynx Airlines Malta in June 2021, a subsidiary of the Lithuanian carrier.
The fact that Finnair’s A321s are now being given a second life as freighters is thanks to a change in APOC’s strategy. Originally, the trader was interested in purchasing the four jetliners to subsequently dismantle them following their acquisition, in order to profitably sell their components and parts to airlines operating A321 fleets. Acquiring and selling fully functional used and recyclable aircraft parts is the Dutch company's key business. According to forecasts, this field offers enormous growth potential since the MRO market will leap from currently some US$13 billion to over US$18 billion by 2028, estimates say. This promising outlook has also prompted APOC to expand its global footprint by establishing a new office in Miami, which opened its doors on 25APR22 - the fifth worldwide in addition to its headquarters near Rotterdam.
On way to becoming the leading A321 P2F operator
After their conversion is completed, the four former Finnair A321s will join the SmartLynx freighter fleet, upping the number of this Airbus variant belonging to the Lithuanian carrier’s fleet to 15 units by mid-2023. “We are continuing our growth strategy to be the biggest A321F operator in the world,” states Zygimantas Surintas, SmartLynx Airlines CEO. “Also, it is our commitment to the green environment as this type is using much less fuel than other cargo aircraft in its class.”
How much the P2F conversion of a single A321 costs is not disclosed by SmartLynx or APOC.
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